Music Heals: What Do Artists Want on Their Riders Other Than Alcohol?

Music Heals
Dusty Henry
photo by Elizabeth Crook

Back in February, Mitski tweeted out a call to arms. Or rather, a call for nutrition:

“Promoters of the world, take heed! We care not for your free alcohol, nay – fill our rider with material for a solid sandwich! Fruit & oatmeal to save for our breakfasts in the morning! THEN hand over the meal buyout for the best local dinner $10-$20 can buy! We! Will! Eat! Well!”

Being an artist on the road is a grueling endeavor. While the idea of going on tour is easily romanticized with getting to play to packed crowds, partying every night, and flying on private, the reality is a bit less exciting. Yeah, those things can and do happen. But especially for indie artists, touring can look a lot like spending countless hours cramped in a tour van trying to keep yourself from succumbing to the monotony of the road and scavenging makeshift meals from gas stations. And while you do get to travel around the country, more often than not artists only get to see the green room of whatever venue they’re playing that night before they have to head back on the road to the next venue in another city.

The less-than-ideal conditions of touring give way to bad habits, always looking for ways to try and numb the boredom and exhaustion. Drinking becomes a common and readily available vice for many artists. When each night you’re handed a fistful of drink tickets or a case of beer and have nothing better to do in a place you’re unfamiliar with, the temptation is real.

Mitski’s tweet wasn’t just a salient point made by a single artist. Artists like Phoebe Bridgers, Margo Price, Peach Kelli Pop, Tomo Nakayama, Yuck, and many others began to echo Mitski’s statement with a resounding “YES!”

As KEXP gets ready for our day of Music Heals programming on Addiction and Recovery, I started to wonder – what do artists want on their riders other than alcohol? As I began to reach out to musicians, I found a surprising and exciting array of answers. When collected together, you start to see the little creature comforts of home that artists so desperately crave when they’re away. Homecooked meals, vitamins, notebooks, and even puppies all come up.

You don’t have to wait until someone is in the throes of addiction to start addressing it. With touring musicians, in particular, there is an opportunity to promote healthy lifestyles and break the patterns many have come to expect. Even if it’s just the small step of offering alternatives to alcohol in green rooms, there’s a big impact to be made in touring culture.

But don’t take my word for it. Read below to hear directly from the artists on what they want.


Mitski // photo by Elizabeth Crook


"Our current tour fad is that we ask for oats, fresh fruit, almond milk, and sometimes peanut butter, and we all make overnight oats with it using our Tupperware/mason jars, so we can have a balanced breakfast on the van ride the next day."

Kevin Morby

Kevin Morby // photo by Elizabeth Crook


“Stamped local postcards and Disposable Cameras. I've been getting these on my riders for years. Its something to do and keep your mind busy and write someone back home, I highly recommend!”

Stephanie Luke (aka Rusty Coathanger) of The Coathangers

The Coathangers // photo by Jake Hanson


”Being on tour can definitely lead to wanting to “zone out” from different vices, including alcohol. As I’ve learned from my own behavior and past experiences sometimes this leads to nights of regret. So for us, we’ve started putting puppies on our rider. However, this could really mean any type of pet! There’s nothing more pure and wholesome and heartwarming as a sweet beautiful furry creature to pass the time with to get one into a positive mindset.

“So here’s to a round of fluffy puppies, please.”


Khruangbin // photo by Andy Bokanev


“We always make sure we've got coconut water, green juices, bananas and avocados on the rider. That way, no matter how little sleep or time we have between things, we know we can have a little injection of health and rehydration.”

Guantanamo Baywatch

Guantanamo Baywatch // photo by Tony Acosta


”After all the partying you tend to get into while on tours, it would be a great encouragement or reboot to find vitamin promoting products like Emergen-C or gummie vites! Or even Pedialyte or something with electrolytes that make you feel like you are putting something of value into your body. A warm meal is always a plus you know, like a big pot of veggie stew. Europe seems to have that idea down but it’s yet to catch on here in the states.”

Alex Lahey

Alex Lahey // photo by GIULIA MCGAURAN


“Given how difficult it is to source nourishing food at times on the road, some sort of nourishing spread would be great. Something to provoke a “deep cleanse” of sorts - greens, fruit, a hearty soup, and protein. Gimme.”

Aaron Frazer of Durand Jones & The Indications

Durand Jones & The Indication // photo by Ansley Lee


“We have lots of non-alcoholic stuff on our rider! A veggie tray, hummus, a bag of spinach, some cliff bars, Durand really likes alkaline water. As our tours have gotten longer, we’ve all found ourselves drinking less— the shows and traveling are too physically demanding. So staying hydrated is a big way we stay healthy and able to perform our best.”

Bonnie Bloomgarden of Death Valley Girls

Death Valley Girls // photo by Michael Haight


”Having something to do while waiting for the bands to play can be hard! It would be awesome if clubs would provide a notebook and pens! Then you could spend time making stuff for people/the club/yourself.”


Palehound // photo by Bao Ngo


"We talk about this all the time on tour. Because none of us really drink (my bandmates will each have a beer or so, I usually don't drink at all besides a tequila shot for special occasions) we are always frustrated by the amount of our hospitality budget that goes into alcohol. More than anything we just want a nice, healthy meal and some Reese's peanut butter cups. Some venues offer meal vouchers for local restaurants and that is ideal! If I had a dollar for every drink ticket I've never used I would have like, $10,000."

Shaun Fleming of Diane Coffee

Diane Coffee // photo by Chad Syme


“I’ve heard of bands using the rider for all sorts of wacky things. One of my favorites was asking for clean underwear, socks, and scratch-off lottery tickets. Though, if we’re trying to avoid addictive behavior, lottery tickets might not be the best alternative to booze. I think it would be amazing to use the rider to rent a massage therapist for an hour. We would rotate every night. Feeling limber, healthy, and relaxed is far more important to me than feeling buzzed.”

Misha Lindes of SadGirl

SadGirl // photo by Michael Haight


“Water and Yerba Mate are a must!!! Tour is a pretty grueling experience a lot of the time – despite how awesome and fun it is, it can also be physically and emotionally draining. Waking up hungover makes it that much harder to get going and stay in a good mood. I personally stopped drinking back in January and touring without booze has made things 10000% easier for me. I feel like I have more energy and I'm overall in a better mood and more stoked. Staying hydrated is super important so you can't beat water on that front and Yerba Mate gives you that bonus boost + it's delicious.”

The Paranoyds


”We don't want to drink out of plastic anymore. We don't want to feel sick the next day. We don’t want to drink shitty liquor out of boredom or obligation. We just want a sandwich. The screenshot below is an actual email we received recently. so ridiculous, that we turned it into a meme! "sure we'll dedicate our entire evening to play your party for drink tickets (and exposure lol)".

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